Sausage Breakfast Casserole

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Sausage CasseroleSausage and cheese. Cayenne pepper and chili powder. Does it get any better? This morning’s contribution to the United Methodist Men’s breakfast was my now-famous sausage casserole. This version is based on someone else’s adaptation of Food Network’s version of Trisha Yearwood’s recipe. For all I know, it could be her grandmother’s. Beats me. All I know is that it was easy to make, tasted great, and didn’t last long this morning.

Perfect for an early morning breakfast when you need to feed a group of 12 adults (or 6 teenagers.) And you assemble it the day before, meaning all you need to do in the morning is put it in the oven and wait!

Prep time: about 30 minutes.    Baking time: 1 hour.  Serves 12; fewer if people are really hungry.

Ingredients

Bread – I used white wheat. How much do you need? If you stack the slices, you will need a tower about 6-8 inches tall. While you have it stacked up, Trim off the crust. This is optional, but I did it.

Bulk sausage – those big ol’ tubes that you cut the end off and squeeze to get the meat out. At least 1 pound. I used 1.5 pounds today. Spicy, mild, sage-flavored – your choice. I used sage.

Cayenne Pepper & Chili Powder – 1 Tablespoon each.

Cheddar cheese – 12 ounces, shredded. You will need to divide this up: one third /  two thirds. It doesn’t need to be exact. Big pile / small pile works, too.

Half & Half – or milk. 2 cups will be fine. If you use milk, try to use whole milk. What? You’re worried about the fat content of the milk? With the cheese and sausage in this recipe, I think we’ve moved past counting calories, people. Enjoy the flavor and start the diet tomorrow!

Eggs – 6 of them. See? How much more damage can using half and half or whole milk do? Go for it.

Directions

The night before…

Spray a 9×13 inch casserole pan with cooking spray, or grease it up with some butter.

Cut the bread into bite-sized cubes and evenly distribute them in the casserole pan.

While the bread is drying a bit in the pan, cook the sausage until fully done. Make sure you “crumble” the sausage while it is frying. You want to end up with a pan of sausage bits, not a giant hunk.

Sprinkle the cayenne pepper and chili powder evenly on the bread. Top with one third of your shredded cheddar cheese.

Using a slotted spoon put the cooked sausage on top of the seasoned bread cubes. Top with the remainder of the cheese.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs and then whisk in the half and half. Pour this mixture over the entire pan of bread, meat and cheese.

Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. Go watch some television. Have a glass of wine, especially if you are hosting a group of teenagers.

The next morning

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Did you check the oven to see if anything was inside first? I won’t tell you that story, but I thought now would be good time to mention it.

Put the covered casserole pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour. When the cheese is melted and the edges of the pan look like they may be starting to brown, the casserole is done.

Take the casserole out of the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. It’s plenty hot and will still be in ten minutes. This will give everything inside a chance to reacquaint. More wine, perhaps? Maybe not. Coffee might be a better choice at this point.

Pairs well with fried bacon and scrapple.

As Chef Rudolf would say “Prost, my friend. Happy eating!”

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The Black Bean Nacho Burger is…

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not for the feint of heart or timid of taste bud. But then again, it could have been the red chili pepper and jalapeno in the salsa.

There’s just two of us here at the parsonage this week, dogs and cat not included, so I thought I might try some new recipes. And with 67% of the normal household being vegetarian, what better time to research some cookbooks and find something tasty sans tail.

Enter Melissa d’Arabian and her book, “ten dollar Dinners” with an awesome recipe for spicy black bean “nacho” burgers!

You can get the book (highly recommended) to read the entire recipe but here is the gist of my version:

1 can cooked black beans, drained

1 cup salsa (I make my own. This is “the” ingredient that makes or breaks this recipe. Don’t be a wimp. Go spicy!)

1 cup of finely crumbled tortilla chips. Have fun here! I put a bunch of chips in a zip-lock bag and then used our marble rolling pin to pulverize them into wee bits.

1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

Seasoning to taste: salt, pepper, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder

Mix everything in a bowl, then take a potato masher and mash it all up. There will be a few whole beans left over; it’s okay. You want this, actually. Helps with the texture, too.

Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes to let everything set up.

After 30 minutes, heat up a frying pan and put in a little bit of vegetable oil. I used a tablespoon’s worth. I also had a non stick pan. Worked well for me. Use the pan you know best.

As the pan heats up, take the mixture out and form patties. The quantity above made 6 patties, each big enough to fit on a standard hamburger bun.

Carefully lay the patties into your frying pan. Cook on one side for 4 or so minutes, then flip and cook 4 minutes on the other side. When the patties are golden brown, they are good to go! If you need to fry up three patties, then three more (due to the size of your pan) you can always put the cooked patties in a baking dish, loosely cover with foil, and place in an oven set to 185 degrees F.

Serve on a nice hamburger bun; adorn with more shredded cheese, salsa and perhaps a glop of sour cream. Did you like that technical term – glop? I wonder if they teach that term in culinary school?

Sides can include rice, corn, or potato-kale casserole. What? You don’t know of potato-kale casserole?

Stay tuned, then!

Black Bean Burger

Sweet Potatoes with a Kick

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Whiskey-glazed Sweet Potatoes and Apples

When I saw whiskey and cayenne pepper on the ingredient list, I knew this would be a winner.  And true enough, everyone at the Thanksgiving dinner soiree liked it. Easy to make and not too time intensive, this is a nice change from the usual brown sugar slathered, over-baked yams that are so common this time of year. Credit for this one goes to Food Network’s Guy Fieri. To check out his official recipe, click here.

I upped some of the quantities and it still worked out fine. This version serves 8 – 10 hungry people.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Ingredients:

6 medium to large sweet potatoes

4 – 5 crisp, tart apples (Fuji or something similar)

1 cup of pecans, shelled and crushed

4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter

1 cup agave nectar (look for it next to the honey in your market)

1/2 cup of whiskey (the better the quality, the better the dish. Don’t be cheap.)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg

A good dash of salt

Directions:

First you need to bake the potatoes. After washing them thoroughly, place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in your pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. You do not want to cook them all the way through, but the spuds should be “almost” done after half an hour. If you cook them all the way, that’s okay. It is just easier to slice them if they still have some firmness. If all else fails, let them cool a bit more before moving on.

Once the potatoes are out of the oven, set aside to cool. DO NOT TURN OFF THE OVEN YET. Sorry, didn’t mean to yell. But don’t do it.

Sauce time next. In a medium sauce pan, toast the pecans over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly. If you think they are starting to burn, remove from heat. Burned nuts smell like, well, burned nuts. And no one wants that.

To the pecans, add the butter, which should melt and sizzle very quickly. Then add the agave nectar, cinnamon, cayenne, nutmeg and salt. Stir and simmer over medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes, just enough to get those flavors popping.

Add the whiskey and stir some more, again over medium heat for about 5 minutes. The alcohol will cook off but the flavor will remain.

Remove from heat and set aside for a few minutes.

Peel and core the apples, then slice them into half inch wedge-like slices. The exact shape is up to you, be as artistic as you want, as long as the slices are not too thick. Try to stay at a half inch thickness or slightly less.

The potatoes should be cool enough for you to handle now. Peel off the ‘tater skin and discard. Cut the potatoes crosswise into half inch slices. I went ahead and cut those in half, creating little half moon shaped slices.

Putting it all together:

Find your 9×12 inch, glass baking dish. It’s the one that is always in the lowest cabinet, under the biggest collection of random baking dishes you have. Yes, that’s the one. Now, spray the baking dish with cooking spray to keep everything from sticking.

Place the potato and apple slices in the baking dish. Again, artistry is up to you. If you are in a hurry, just toss them in and mix. I tried to be fancy and alternated potato and apple, using three rows. Just get them in there somehow and you will be okay.

Give your pecan-whiskey sauce a stir, then drizzle all over the potatoes and apples.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. While you are waiting, you can make more sauce (minus the pecans) and drizzle on top once the dish has fully baked. It’s an option, not a requirement.

Now you are done!

As long as you have talked someone else into baking a turkey, you are all set for a feast.

Happy eating, Pilgrims!

 

 

BBQ Ribs the easy way!

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BBQ Ribs on the Eastern Shore. Photo by D.J. Lutz

I have been known to fire up the grill in all types of weather, including a torrential downpour once when I was stationed on Okinawa. (Oh, the joys of living and working in building ni nichi ni and its adjacent Habu Valley.)  Yesterday, however, was a day for company coming over to the house so it behooved us all to stay high and dry as a typical summer thunderstorm rolled on through the Eastern Shore.

Babyback pork ribs were on the menu and the Weber grill was off-limits. What to do?

Tyler Florence of Food Network fame has a great recipe for babyback ribs.  I altered it just slightly to fit what we had in the pantry.  This was easy to cook and tasty to eat.  Here’s my take on the recipe:

Serves 4 regular people or two hungry lads.

Oven: 250 degrees F.

Ingredients

3 lbs. Babyback ribs

4 tablespoons olive oil (leave the bottle out; you’ll need more)

salt / pepper to taste

2 slices uncooked bacon

2 more tablespoons of olive oil (see?)

2 cups ketsup

1/4 cup mollasis

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon onion powder (no crying needed)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

one small jar of peach preserves

Directions

Place the ribs on a broiler pan.  I had to cut the rack in half so it would fit.  Also, I lined the inside with foil to make clean up a whole lot easier.

Brush the ribs down with the 4 tablespoons of olive oil, then salt and pepper the rack to your taste.  Don’t be afraid to give ’em some extra flavor!

Put the ribs in the oven and cook “low and slow” for 2 hours. Helpful hint: I put a pan of water on the lowest oven rack to help keep the inside of the oven nice and steamy.  The ribs did not dry out, even cooking uncovered for several hours.

While the ribs are enjoying their steam bath, prepare the sauce.

In a 2 quart sauce pan, add the uncooked bacon and the two tablespoons of olive oil.  Using medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat starts to render.  Basically, once the fat starts to curl up a bit, you are good to go to move on to the next step.

Next step: add everything else and stir.  Be careful – the bacon and the olive oil are hot!   No need to make a trip to the emergency department or make a run to find that fire extinguisher.

Once everything is mixed well, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally.  Once the sauce starts to bubble, go ahead and turn the heat down to low or even warm.  Re-cover, stirring every few minutes.

Once the ribs have cooked for their two hours, baste them with the sauce.  Both sides.  (Be sure to separate some of the sauce if you want it for dipping later.)

Continue to cook the ribs for another 30 minutes, basting every ten minutes.

Now the fun part…

Make sure the ribs are “backside up.”  In other words, they form a hill, not a valley.  Now, without moving the ribs higher in the oven, turn on the broiler.  Keeping the oven door open slightly so you can see inside, broil the ribs for 5 minutes or until the sauce has browned to your liking.

Ta-daa!  You are ready to serve your own famous barbeque ribs!  You will look like the awesome chef that you are!  Enjoy your moments of glory as you serve the best ribs ever!

Pairs well with fresh corn on the cob, slathered in butter and slightly peppered (is there any other way?) And some cold potato salad would be a nice contrast, too.  To drink, as Dandy Don would have it – ice tea is the name of the game, icy and refreshing!

Enjoy the ribs!   We certainly did!  Next time we are making a double batch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Fantastic Falafel “Burger” with Crazy Couscous!

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Falafel with couscous

Now I will be the first one to admit, I am not a trained chef with a tall toque, but I am a guy that likes to venture beyond the drive-through when it comes to food. Of course, I have no degree from the CIA and my French is limited to “bon jour,” but I can read instructions and at times I follow them. And thanks to television (I know, really?) I have now learned about falafels with bean sauce and couscous. How did I accomplish this feat, you ask? Well, I must give credit to Melissa d’Arabian, a Food Network chef who has her own show on Sundays. Check it out if you can, it’s called Ten Dollar Dinners.

Last week Melissa showed a non-traditional way to make a falafel – by forming it into a patty and frying it up kind of like a chickpea-burger. She adding a pasta not used often in my part of the world, Isreali couscous, and flavored it with spices, diced tomatoes and some fresh herbs such as mint, parsley and cilantro.

To complement the falafel and couscous, diced tomatoes and thinly sliced cucumber sticks are added as sides. A creamy white bean yogurt sauce is drizzled over everything to tie it all together.

Now I am no Food Network Star, but if I can watch one episode and follow the recipes, you can to! Try it sometime. Pick your favorite TV chef (I have several) and try your hand at copying their show. You will impress your family and friends with your amazing technique and plates full of excellent food.

I did.  You can, too!!

P.S. To see these recipes, just click on the links above!

Buen Provecho,amigos!

 

Time to fire up the Grill?

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Cover of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An...

Cover via Amazon

Yes, before the landslide of email arrives, all of which will be berating me for my lack of posts on this blog, let me pre-empt your fury by agreeing with you. Indeed, I have not been here for a while.

Fortunately, I am back to allocating time to write about food. This means you should (hopefully) see at least one post every other week. I mean, really, I eat every day. Why shouldn’t I write about it? I’ll try to be consistent – how about Mondays?

So Guy Fieri of Food Network fame was in town this past week. His team had surreptitiously checked out a few different places, with Guy finally deciding that Moseberth’s in Portsmouth VA would be perfect for his show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. A family run restaurant, in business for 71 years, Moseberth’s looks to be the place for fried chicken, pulled pork barbeque and collard greens.

With this visit making the local news yesterday, I am sure Mr. Moseberth and his crew will have already seen an increase in business today. Once the episode airs, it could be a mad house rush!

I will make a point to find time to take one of my sous chefs (and maybe his girlfriend, too, if she wants to come) to visit this establishment. I know it is not on the Eastern Shore, but good food is worth a $17 bridge toll.

In the meantime, tautog season is about to end for a while, as flounder action is starting to pick up. That means three things: I need to find time to go fishing, I need to clean up the outdoor grill, and maybe it’s time to make a return trip to the Chesapeake Grill on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

I think this summer will include a great culinary adventure and I can’t wait to share it with you – my three faithful readers! Just joking…I know there are five of you.

So raise a glass to Mr. Flounder – may he be of legal size and come with a side of tartar sauce!

And now for something completely different…

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We interrupt this Baconfest to bring you this important recipe for Chicken and Dumplings. It’s cold outside, raining, and snow is probably on the way…again. Life in the Mid Atlantic part of the Eastern Coast of Nor-tay Americano. With no St. Bernard, complete with keg of whiskey hanging from the collar, we needed food, soon, and it needed to be tasty and hot. Not one, not the other. It had to be both hot AND tasty. What to do???

Chicken and Dumplings, based on a recipe from Gina Neely from Food Network fame. Don’t just try it – live it!

Step 1:
1 whole chicken, cut up. Don’t even think about throwing out the skin!
6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon thyme
1 Bay leaf

In a stock pot, simmer all of the ingredients for at least 20 minutes, until the biggest piece of chicken reaches an internal temperature of 185 degrees. No reason to poison anyone so soon… =8>)
When the chicken is done, remove the bird to a different pan, to cool. Remove the bay leaf plus any hunks of skin or bones remaining in the stock pot. Set remaining broth aside.

Step 2:
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/8 inch disks
2 celery stalks, chopped, just the green part, no base and no leaf bits, please.
1/2 white onion, chopped.
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup oil

In a sauce pan, saute the vegetables, garlic, and S & P in the oil until onions are translucent.
When done, add to the broth.

Step 3:
Chicken should be cool enough to shred the meat away from the skin and bones. I use two forks to do this. I do the same thing when making shredded pork barbeque, but that’s a different post. Add the chicken bits to the broth.

Step 4:
Turn up the heat on the broth just a bit. You need to get the mixture back up to a slight simmer again.

Step 5:
Time for the dumplings
In a large bowl, mix the following:
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste. Put more in than you think necessary. Really, it’ll be alright.

Step 5 1/4:
In a sauce pan, heat up 1 cup of heavy cream and two tablespoons of butter.
Stir well, you don’t want the cream to scald (turn black and fuse to the pan…)
Add thyme, oregano and black pepper to taste. Don’t be stingy. You can buy more later.

Step 5 1/2:
Take the cream off the heat. Add the flour mixture to the cream sauce. Stir with a spatula until a dough blob forms.

Step 6:
Using a small spoon, piece off little bits of dough, about the size of a golf ball, no bigger. These are your dumplings! One at a time, add them to the now simmering broth. Simmer 20 minutes.

Step 7:
Wait. Your 20 minutes aren’t done yet, are they?

Step 8:
Okay, NOW they are done. Ladle some in a bowl. Eat when it is cool enough for your tastebuds!

We now bring you back to your normal Baconfest programming.

Happy Eating!

You can cook like a celebrity chef, too!

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So we were about “turkey’d out” from Thanksgiving and with three out of four of us having various self-imposed meat restrictions, our Christmas dinner options were in short supply. What to do?  Hmmm…

Food Network to the rescue!  By spending just a few minutes searching the website, I created a dinner using recipes from some of our favorite chefs. Except for a fish substitution, followed the recipes exactly (for once) and everyone was thrilled with the results.

Here’s the WIIFM (what’s in it for me): If you can read a recipe, you, too, can be a celebrity chef in your own home!

The best part: fed a family of 4 for a total cost of… under $58.

Here we go:

Kids, don’t try this at home…

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You know how sometimes you can substitute one ingredient for another, and really, no one can tell the difference once the cooking is done? Well, it doesn’t always work out…

We had a “hankerin'” for pumpkin bread and lo and behold, AB had a nice looking recipe in one of his cookbooks. If you don’t own the Alton Brown series, you are missing out on some fun reading and some “Good Eats.”  But I digress…  I rummaged through the pantry cupboard and found nearly all required items, save one.  The recipe called for pumpkin.  Not the canned stuff you see in late October, early November, stacked to the hinterlands at your grocery store.  No, real grown on the vine pumpkin.

Due to a lawn mower gone amok earlier this summer, our fledgling pumpkin patch never really materialized.  “But that’s okay,” I said, reaching for the can of pumpkin pie filling.  “This will be a good substitute!”  Like it could have said on the can:  Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.   3 cups of pie filling do not equal 3 cups of pumpkin.

I won’t even put the recipe down here.  Do yourself a favor and get his book, but learn from my mistake. If the recipe says fresh pumpkin, get fresh pumpkin.  The canned stuff, which works great in quick-fix pies, did not do the trick.  The only way it might have a chance of it working is if you adjust the other ingredients,  flour perhaps, or tone down the amount of canned pumpkin.

You know it’s a bad sign when your wife says: “Man, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of your dishes end up so badly!”  This effort ended up right in the trash.

Kids, don’t try this at home…